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Rival Views: Which new coach needs a big-time recruiting class?



The coaching carousel didn’t spin as much this past offseason but there were still changes made at some of the nation’s top programs. Coaches of all stripes are constantly under pressure, but which first-year coach is facing the most pressure to come through with a strong showing with their first full class? analysts Corey Evans and Dan McDonald have Rival Views.

MORE: The good, bad and puzzling of the NCAA’s new recruiting rules


Dan Hurley

AP Images

It’s no surprise that Dan Hurley is already under pressure at UConn considering the program’s championship pedigree over the last 20 years and the popularity of his predecessor among past and current players. If Hurley fails to lead the Huskies to the NCAA Tournament this season, it will mark the first time since the 1980s that the program has missed March Madness in three consecutive years. If you’re Hurley, you need to get the ship righted and do it fast.

Hurley can coach. He can also recruit and has what it takes to go toe-to-toe with the best that college basketball has to offer. The Huskies are squarely in the mix for five-star Precious Achiuwa, four-star Akok Akok and several other highly-touted prospects.

Hurley might feel the slight heat on his seat and will want to appease Huskies fans this fall with a nationally recognized class that will push the program back into the spotlight for all the right reasons.




Chris Mack

AP Images

Chris Mack was an outstanding hire for Louisville. Quite honestly, I’m a little surprised the Cardinals were able to lure him away with all the issues that came up and caused the university to move on from Rick Pitino. Louisville won the 2018 college basketball coaching carousel.

There is still a pretty nice amount of talent on the roster going into Mack’s first season, but playing in the ACC is no joke. In a league where you’ll face North Carolina, Duke, Virginia, Syracuse, Notre Dame and several other great programs, it’s imperative to always stock your roster with talent. Given the way Mack recruited at Xavier, I don’t see the talent level ever being an issue for the Cardinals going forward.

Louisville already secured an early commitment from four-star shooting guard Josh Nickelberry. David Johnson had committed to Pitino’s staff before opening up after the change, but he’s still very much in play. Jae’lyn Withers, Aidan Igiehon, Patrick Williams and others all have serious interest in Mack’s program as well. Every class is an important class, but Louisville’s new staff is in a position to knock out of the park this year and going forward.


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College & HS

Barrett helps lead way as Duke sweeps exhibition



MONTREAL — R.J. Barrett had 23 points and 11 assists to help Duke beat McGill University 103-58 on Sunday night in the Blue Devils’ third and final game on a Canadian exhibition tour.

Duke opened the tour with two games in Barrett’s hometown of Mississauga, Ontario, beating Ryerson 86-67 on Wednesday night and the University of Toronto 96-60 on Friday night. Barrett scored 34 points against Ryerson and 35 against Toronto.

Barrett had 11 assists against McGill, with the Redmen trying to limit his scoring.

“It’s just the ability to read the game, and they were trying to take away from me scoring,” Barrett said. “I was playing against one of my former coaches [McGill’s David DeAveiro] who knows what I do, so he was trying to limit me from scoring, which left my teammates wide open.”

DeAveiro coached Barrett for two years with the Canadian national cadet team.

Fellow freshman star Zion Williamson led Duke with 36 points and 13 rebounds. Alex Paquin had 29 points for McGill.

“We obviously have more talent, but we’re young. R.J. and Zion are 18. Alex Paquin is 24, he’s really good, and he’s a man,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “That’s one of the things when we get to NCAA play: We have to beat teams that have juniors, seniors or even graduate transfers. So that balances sometimes the talent aspect.”


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College & HS

Center Qudus Wahab is busy on the visit trail



One of the top big man prospects along the East Coast, Qudus Wahab is on the visit trail. After recently trimming his school list to a group of 12, Wahab will visit take four unofficial visits within the next three weeks.

A member of the Rivals150, Wahab recently cut his list to a dozen: Ohio State, Syracuse, Georgetown, Temple, Miami, Pittsburgh, Louisville, LSU, UConn, Virginia Tech, VCU, and Rhode Island.

Since the July evaluation period ended, Wahab has visited VCU, Temple and Georgetown. Wahab has no plans on stopping as he plans to visit UConn on Aug. 19, Ohio State on Aug. 25, Pitt on Aug. 26 and Syracuse on Sept. 8.

Why has Wahab become such a coveted recruit along the East Coast? For one, he is a big man that can contribute without having a single play called for him. He is mobile, active and capable of producing through physicality.

On the Under Armour circuit this summer, the We R1 product finished the season with averages of 8.1 points (51-percent FG), 8.1 rebounds and 2.6 blocks.

No other visits have been scheduled outside of the four upcoming as all five official visits remain available. There is no rush in the college recruiting process for Wahab as another list is expected to be published within the next month or so as the most serious of contenders for his eventual commitment will then become known.

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College & HS

Rivals Roundtable: UNC targets; new recruiting rules; more



Tre Mann

Nick Lucero/

In this week’s Rivals Roundtable, basketball analysts Eric Bossi, Corey Evans and Dan McDonald give their opinions on a number of topics. Who is North Carolina’s most important remaining target? What’s the good and bad about the new NCAA recruiting rules and who are some 2018-19 sleepers?

MORE: Seven freshman with big shoes to fill | Most mysterious 2019 recruitments

1. On Thursday, North Carolina added five-star big man Armando Bacot to a 2019 recruiting class that already included four-star point guard Jeremiah Francis. Which of their remaining targets is most important?

BOSSI: Roy Williams and the Tar Heels thought they landed their point guard of the future when four-star Jeremiah Francis committed in 2017. However, the Ohio native is now looking at missing his second high school year in a row. Because of that, insurance is needed in the backcourt. The two primary targets left on their board as point guards look to be Cole Anthony and Tre Mann.

Looking at things, Mann may be the “safe” guy to go after. It’s been said that Carolina was a dream school for him and the top 30 prospect from Florida is likely to make a decision sooner than Anthony does. He’s also likely to spend at least a few years in college.

Mann would be a great addition, but I’m a bit of a gambler so I say go all out on Anthony. He clearly has legit interest in Carolina (unofficially visited in August) and with five-star big Armando Bacot in the fold and other five-stars like Matt Hurt, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl and Josh Green holding serious interest, the opportunity to go after a super class is there.

EVANS: Rivals150 guard Jeremiah Francis has the has had to endure a number of injuries in recent years and instead of rushing his timetable for a return to the floor, why not bring in another playmaking agent in the 2019 class? Mann is a crucial target for the program and while they will welcome Coby White to campus this fall, he will not be the answer for its facilitating needs. Sure, White is talented but he is more of a scorer at heart. The Tar Heels do not have a pure lead guard on its roster and Mann would be the perfect solution. I still think that Florida is the team to beat, but Mann might be the most important for UNC’s long-term future and success rate over the next few years.

McDONALD: With a big man and a point guard in the fold, it’s probably most important for Williams and his staff to lock down a really talented wing. As it turns out, the Tar Heels are strongly in the mix for five-star shooting guard Green, who will be teammates with Bacot (and another UNC five-star target Robinson-Earl) this season at IMG Academy. He fits perfectly with how UNC wants to play in the transition game and would be an instant impact guy in Chapel Hill. He needs to be at the top of the UNC wish list.


2. Now that you’ve had some time to digest the NCAA’s changes to the 2019 hoops recruiting calendar, what one thing do you like and what one thing do you dislike most about the changes?

BOSSI: Anybody who follows me knows that there’s not a lot I like about the new rules and I’ve been pretty vocal about my belief that the Rice commission did a poor (and that’s being nice) job of getting on the ground level of grassroots basketball and investigating where the problems really are.

So, if I had to pick something I like it would be that the power seems to be being given back to the student-athlete a bit more. Players will be able to take more official visits, they will now be able to go through the completion of the Draft process and return to school if not selected. That’s good.

What irks me the most is that the entire look into summer ball was because the shoe companies and summer coaches supposedly had too much power and coaches had shady dealings with agents. While the new rules allow for more time with high school coaches and evaluation in those settings, leaving just one July weekend open to traditional summer tournaments before a week of camps is actually putting more power than ever in the hands of shoe companies and travel team coaches. The reality is that the typical shoe company events feature much more college-bound talent than the typical independent event. If those types of events are going head-to-head and there are now less weeks or weekends with those events, the college coaches have to pick where they can see the most players and I’m betting that attendance at the shoe company events is going to dwarf other events even more than it already does.

Don’t even get me started on the complete lack of a plan for getting exposure for junior college players or prep schoolers who will be home from school during the extra weeks coaches can watch kids with their high school teams in June. On the bright side, I’ll be surprised if these changes last longer than the 2019 recruiting cycle.

EVANS: Is saying that I liked the fact that they kept the first evaluation period in July so that the Nike Peach Jam, or the events held by Under Armour and adidas, to still be such live period events, too big of a cop out? There was a lot of talk prior to July that the entire month would be wiped clean and filled with camps that would make everyone’s job much more difficult. Nothing can replace the Nike Peach Jam; the competition and energy in the gym is the best that you’re going to find on the travel circuit. I am glad it remained.

The dislike: I just do not like the camp set-up at all. Maybe I would if the parameters for it would have been detailed better, but it is not good that neither the NCAA nor the Rice Commission seem to know as much about running such events. Who is going to help set-up the camps? I do believe camps can be beneficial. However, they are usually the created for skill development, not for exposure. I am willing to stay patient and see how it all plays out but currently, I have some questions for its longevity and the betterment of the sport.

McDONALD: I like the idea of making high school team camps open to college coaches at the end of June. It’s great for college coaches to see prospects in different settings, and it can be hard for them to see kids with their high school teams much during the high school season because of their own schedules.

On the flip side, I hate the idea of camps. I’ve always thought they are by far the hardest setting to evaluate players and I don’t think top prospects will want to attend these camps. I’d much rather see another open weekend with travel teams to end the month than regional camps.

3. Which freshman ranked outside of 2018’s top 50 do you think is most likely to put together a surprisingly productive first year?


Isaac Likelele

Ft. Worth Star Telegram

BOSSI: There are plenty of good choices but I’m going to go with the Rivals150 equivalent to the Draft’s Mr. Irrelevant (last pick). That’s right, Oklahoma State signee Isaac Likekele who ranks No. 150 in 2018. The 6-foot-4 guard from the Dallas area was actually ranked a little higher when we completed the final rankings but has been pushed back some because of the all the players reclassifying from 2019 to 2018.

That doesn’t really matter at the end of the day. What matters is that Likekele is a rare breed of competitor, leader and worker who I think Cowboy fans are going to love and who opposing Big 12 fans will hate and respect in equal doses. Oklahoma State took an overseas trip last week and the freshman averaged 10.7 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game. If he can come close to replicating that during the regular season, he’ll be on his way to Big 12 stardom.

EVANS: Nate Laszewski has never shied away from the spotlight, where he sports under-appreciated toughness and had willed his Northfield Mount Hermon program to a number of wins throughout the years and, as a sophomore, was responsible for it winning the highly lauded NEPSAC title. Now onto Notre Dame, the 6-foot-8 power forward has the chance to become an integral part of the program.

Mike Brey has become reliant on his upperclassmen stars, but with Matt Farrell and Bonzie Colson out the door, Laszewski has the chance to step in and immediately make a name for himself as a shot-maker that provides for a major mismatch option at the power forward spot. The opportunity is there and I would be surprised if Laszewski does not run away from the chance to star from day one.

McDONALD: I’ve always been a really big fan of Mississippi State‘s Robert Woodard. He’s a really good athlete, a really good scorer, and just gets a lot done on the court. He’s a very good two-way player. I don’t think it will take them for him to win over Ben Howland and become a really good player in Starkville.

4. Which program is your sleeper for a 2018-19 season?


Ethan Happ

AP Photos

BOSSI: When I’m thinking potential sleepers, I can’t help but look out West to the Pac-12, where I see the conference race as wide open as it has ever been. There are several candidates for breakout teams there and the one I keep coming back to is Washington.

During Mike Hopkins first year in Seattle, the Huskies were much better than expected. They went 10-8 in conference and made the NIT. I have to think they take a big step forward this year. They have senior leadership in David Crisp, Matisse Thybulle – who is also a big-time defensive player, even while playing in a zone — and Noah Dickerson and they have a budding star in sophomore shooting guard Jaylen Nowell. Their depth just looks to be “ok” but if even one of their incoming freshman can be better than expected, then look for UDub to have a breakout season.

EVANS: It would only be right if Wisconsin would bounce back from a rather lackluster 2018 season and forge ahead towards an NCAA Tournament berth this winter. Reeling from a season where missed the final bracket of 68 for the first time since 1998, the Badgers welcome back practically its entire roster but more importantly, national player of the year contender Ethan Happ. Happ, who put his name in the NBA Draft but then withdrew,, should be one of the most productive players in America this season.

Happ will not be alone as I see a giant leap with a now healthy Brad Davison and a year of improvement out of Aleem Ford. A wide open Big Ten gives Wisconsin even more room for growth as Greg Gard will hush the critics and make Wisconsin a name often seen within the national polls this year.

McDONALD: I’m going with USC. The Trojans were up and down last year due to injuries but also in large part because of the FBI investigation that led to an assistant being fired and De’Anthony Melton being ineligible. The Trojans could never really put it all together for a consistent stretch and therefore were left out of the NCAA Tournament. With the core of their roster back, I like Andy Enfield‘s squad as one that will make some noise out west in the Pac-12 and playing deep into March.

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